• Tyler Smith

Conspiracy: Book Review

by Tyler Smith, Staff-Writer


















Conspiracy is a book about how a gossip blog, a retired wrestler and a reclusive billionaire all cross paths, and end up in front of a judge and jury in a courtroom in Florida. First things first, trigger warning: this book contains graphic descriptions of sex, possibly nonconsensual at points, descriptions of suicidal tendencies and racial slurs.


Moving on, Ryan Holiday mixes the story of the spectacular downfall of Gawker, a tabloid blog with the concept of conspiracies themselves- how they form, progress and ultimately resolve. You see, Gawker is a now defunct blog site that made a name for itself by posting nasty and mean spirited articles, mainly about celebrities and high profile people. It got away with this more or less by hiding behind the first amendment- because of free speech, if you're a public personality, you’re fair game. One of the articles they posted outed Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire, as gay. Peter took offence, and instead of letting it go like most people advised him, he decided he was going to do something about it. As it just so happened, several years later, Gawker posted a leaked sex tape from Terry Bollea, aka Hulk Hogan. An unlikely alliance forms and to make an absolutely bonkers story short, Thiel, using Hogan as a cover of sorts, bankrupted Gawker using the US legal system and in the process changed the conversation around journalism and privacy.


One of the problems I had with this book is that the tone of the author feels a little lofty for what actually took place. I somewhat understand why Holiday went this route, but it gets exhausting when you’re trying to connect to the story but every few sentences are bogged down with wordy philosophies and musings. In almost every single chapter there is at least one (long) paragraph referencing a war or Machiavelli or another body of work that you aren’t reading because you wanted to know how Hulk Hogan ended up suing a tabloid blog. Another thing that I feel like speaks to the vaguely condescending tone the author can sometimes take is how Holiday talks about people who play video games. It’s a small point, at some point Holiday refers to #Gamergate, an absolute mess and a rabbit hole we won’t be getting into here. Any criticism Holiday has of the people involved in this is well deserved, but at other points in the book he refers to “people who play video games” simply as “angry video game nerds”. Maybe it's the Nintendo Switch sitting on my desk, but it didn’t sit well with me.


One thing I do appreciate that Holiday does is he talks about the human impact that all of this has on the three main people in this story. Even if you already know how everything went down, it is still very eye opening how at the end of all of it there were emotions, and how terribly difficult it can be to be on the other end of tabloids that we usually use as mindless entertainment or ways to pass time. It’s also interesting how he details the growth and change of the people who are the bad guys of the story. There’s lots of conflicting opinions and feelings that I think he balances well (even if it's buried under historical trivia). It also has very interesting insights on legal proceedings and the US court system and how it treats journalism as a whole.


One thing I do appreciate that Holiday does is he talks about the human impact that all of this has on the three main people in this story. Even if you already know how everything went down, it is still very eye opening how at the end of all of it there were emotions, and how terribly difficult it can be to be on the other end of tabloids that we usually use as mindless entertainment or ways to pass time. It’s also interesting how he details the growth and change of the people who are the bad guys of the story. There’s lots of conflicting opinions and feelings that I think he balances well (even if it's buried under historical trivia). It also has very interesting insights on legal proceedings and the US court system and how it treats journalism as a whole.

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